Clergy and leaders within religious institutions offer spiritual and moral guidance for their followers. When these leaders sexually abuse someone, it is extremely detrimental. This abuse manipulates someone’s trust and faith bringing lifelong consequences to the victim.
Abuses in the Catholic Church have been well-documented in the media. However, the systemic abuse has occurred for centuries. Old church documents repeatedly warned of priests or brothers abusing parishioners. Instead of being active in protecting the victims, the Church has a reputation of concealing the abuse and reassigning the clergy members. This isn’t just in a Catholic dioceses but also in religious orders (i.e., Christian Brothers, Paulist Fathers, Franciscans, etc).
Usually, the abuse lasts for years. It can take a long time for a child victim of sexual abuse to be able to come forward and report the abuse. Because monsignors, bishops, brothers, nuns, along with priests hold positions coupling trust and faith, victims don’t always identify the abuse. Some abusers claim the inappropriate sexual contact is part of a ritual. Then the perpetrators threaten the victims into silence.
Jehovah’s Witness Abuse
Much like the Catholic Church, recent investigations have begun to uncover the depth and scope of child sexual abuse and the cover up within the Jehovah’s Witness and Watchtower Society. Last year, the Jehovah’s Witnesses kept telling their Elders to keep child sexual abuse a secret from both law enforcement and their own congregations. Yet, the religion continued to collect detailed information on the sexual abusers.
A victim must produce another witness to the sexual abuse before an elder in the religion will investigate. If the elder dismisses the claim, then the victim can be shunned and turned away from the congregation. However, action against the abuser only happens with a confession. Then, if he or she repents, the elder accepts the abuser back into the church.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (i.e., Mormons or the LDS Church) has a different organizational structure than other religions. Male members in good standing become “priest holders” and will have domain over others in the congregation. This power can lead to sexual abuse.
Allegations are mostly handled internally without outside help. Unfortunately, the church will just remove title of a priest holder, but won’t inform other people in the church of the sexual abuse. This leads to more victims as the cycle continues.
Seventh-Day Adventist Abuse
The Seventh-Day Adventist is a Christian denomination with nearly 17 million followers in more than 200 countries. The religion is overseen by the General Conference. Like other religious institutions, those in a position of power within the church use their power to abuse members. These predators know how to twist and manipulate the teachings of Ellen White and other SDA Church doctrines to win the obedience and silence of victims.
When a perpetrator is discovered, the SDA Church usually protects the predator and its reputation over the safety of the victims. Survivors with the courage to report abuse should not be silenced. This is why we work with victims to help them continue to heal through exploring civil avenues.
Sexual Abuse is Common
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, sexual assault affects more victims than many of us may realize.
- One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives
- The lifetime cost of rape per victim is $122,461
- Annually, rape costs the U.S. more than any other crime ($127 billion), followed by assault ($93 billion), murder ($71 billion), and drunk driving, including fatalities ($61 billion)
- 81% of women and 35% of men report significant short or long-term impacts such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Health care is 16% higher for women who were sexually abused as children and 36% higher for women who were physically and sexually abused as children
- Rape is the most under-reported crime, with 63% of sexual assaults having never been reported to police
Extended Statute of Limitations
There are many states that are extending their statute of limitations, which allows survivors of sexual abuse more time to seek civil justice. California and New York are some of the first states to take this brave step. For a complete list of your state’s statute of limitations, click here.
On October 13, 2019, California governor signed law AB218. This new law extends the timeframe survivors of sexual abuse have to file a civil suit. Those who suffered abuse while under the age of 18 have until they are age 40, or up to five years from the discovery of the psychological injury to the sexual abuse. The new law went into effect on January 1, 2020.
In September 2019, the governor of New York signed a bill that extended the statute of limitations for rape and other sex crimes. New York’s new law increases the time for reporting second-degree rape to 20 years and third-degree rape to 10 years. This was previously five years.
Get Legal Help
Survivors of sexual abuse can file civil suits against perpetrators and other responsible parties, regardless of the outcome or existence of a criminal prosecution. Civil lawsuits can help a survivor seek monetary damages. This compensation can never change the abuse suffered but can help rebuild a life.
When a religious organization takes advantage of you, this is wrong. We will hold these institutions liable.
Plus, a civil suit can deter future abuse. This is why it is important if you or a loved one was the victim of sexual abuse to contact The Michael Brady Lynch Firm. We will provide a free consultation and instruct on any avenues available to you for civil litigation.